Summer Fun: Petite Poetry

Grand Canyon

We recently returned from a 12-day trip that took us through seven National Parks. One of our favorite activities was writing poetry about some of the places we visited.

Originally I planned to use a technique called “poem sketching” by poet Steve Kowit to help keep the kids entertained. I thought it would be fun to include their poems in a family photo book about our trip. Here’s how it works:

  • Someone looks outside and brainstorms four words, for example, canyon, sunset, vulture, joy. Typically three should be objects, the last an emotion or something that gives the word group a twist or sets it in motion.
  • Using these words, everyone writes a poem of no more than four lines. It’s doesn’t have to rhyme. Just think of it as a long sentence.

The National Park Service beat me to the punch however. My kids love earning their Junior Ranger badges by completing workbooks about each park they visit. Sure enough, the Grand Canyon book included instructions for writing a cinquain.

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That’s Finley’s cinquain. He’s 7.

This activity prompted Cooper (age 9) to write a few haiku and even an acrostic poem.

Forest (Rocky Mountain National Park)

By Cooper

Fun
Old
Red
Exploration
Super beautiful
Too much to visit in one day

I think the kids would have rebelled against Mom’s poetry workshop, but when the National Park Service requires it, who can argue?

 

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PPBF: To Dare Mighty Things

With warm weather at last, we’re releasing butterflies, watching birds, and swimming in the pool. Our outdoor activities prompted today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick about presidential outdoorsman, Teddy Roosevelt.

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TITLE:  TO DARE MIGHTY THINGS

AUTHOR: Doreen Rappaport

ILLUSTRATOR: C. F. Payne

PUBLICATION INFO: Disney Hyperion, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4231-2488-7

SOURCE: library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 6 to 8

GENRE: nonfiction picture book biography

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“’Teedie,’ as he was called, coughed, sneezed, wheezed, had raging fevers, and hardly ate.”

From the jacket flap:

“President Theodore Roosevelt is known as “the man with a plan,” the “rough rider.” His figure stands tall in American history; his legacy stretching him to larger-than-life proportions.

But before his rise to fame, he was just “Teedie,” a boy with ambitious dreams to change the world, and the conviction to see his stupendous imaginings brought to fruition.

As an American president, he left an impressive mark upon his country. He promised a “square deal” to all citizens, he tamed big businesses, and protected the nation’s wildlife and natural beauty. His fearless leadership assured that he would always be remembered, and his robust spirit now dares others to do mighty things.

In her moving picture book portrait, award-winning author Doreen Rappaport uses her well-honed approach of personal quotes and vivid prose to spin together the tale of a sickly boy who became a monumental man. Coupled with C. F. Payne’s dramatic artwork, the story of President Teddy, touchstone of American history, is brought to life.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Teddy Roosevelt is a fascinating character. He truly remade himself from an often-sick youth into the quintessential outdoorsman and bold politician. I’ve read other books that focused on snippets of his life, for example Rosenstock’s THE CAMPING TRIP THAT CHANGED AMERICA, but this is the first truly comprehensive biography I’ve seen. Rappaport integrates primary sources into the text and presents a balanced picture. She shows how Teddy intervened in other country’s affairs, like those of Panama, ultimately building the Panama Canal. Of course, Teddy Roosevelt could care less what others thought, she tells us. Rappaport reveals Teddy as truly larger-than-life, and Payne’s illustrations follow suit beginning with the cover. It shows only Teddy’s laughing face. No title. No author’s name. No illustrator’s name. Just Teddy, truly larger than life.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • Rappaport’s back matter has resources for further exploration, including books and Web sites.
  • A teacher’s guide is available through her Web site.
  • She also has links to several videos of Teddy, including one of him hunting big game  in Africa.
  • And, of course, you too can dare mighty things and try some of the things Teddy did: ride a horse, watch birds, hike, and write your own books about what you find.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

LookUpI had to wrestle this book away from my seven-year-old. He’s been hiding it in the “reading cave” under his bed and periodically pulling it out to tempt me, allowing me to read a snippet here and there. Last night, I crawled under the bed, retrieved the book, and read it from endpaper to informative endpaper.

TITLE: LOOK UP! BIRD-WATCHING IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Annette LeBlanc Cate

PUBLICATION INFO: Candlewick, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4561-8

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 8 to 12 years

GENRE: nonfiction picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“This is a book about one of my favorite hobbies: bird-watching (and bird drawing, too!).”

From the publisher:

“This conversational, humorous introduction to bird-watching encourages kids to get outdoors with a sketchbook and really look around. Quirky full-color illustrations portray dozens of birds chatting about their distinctive characteristics, including color, shape, plumage, and beak and foot types, while tongue-in-cheek cartoons feature banter between birds, characters, and the reader (“Here I am, the noble spruce grouse. In a spruce grove. Eatin’ some spruce. Yep.”). Interactive and enjoyable tips bring an age-old hobby to new life for the next generation of bird-watchers.

You don’t have to own binoculars and know a bunch of fancy Latin names to watch birds! No matter where you live, they’re in your neighborhood — just look up.”
 

THEMES/TOPICS: science, nature

WHY I LIKE LOVE! THIS BOOK: I’m a big bird fan. We have nesting hummingbirds and mourning doves along with California quail in our yard. Last year a killdeer hid her eggs among the rocks out front. Oh, and did I mention the ravens make themselves at home at our home too?

Whenever I see something cool, I like to share it with the boys. When we take walks to the park, they look for birds along our route. Taking time to slow down and observe birds in their natural habitat is such a gift in a busy world. And I can think of no better book than this one to encourage kids along the way.

Cate’s technique reminds me of the brilliant WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING HATCHLINGS. The text is 100% nonfiction, but each page features birds with speech bubbles filled with witty repartee. It’s very clever and entertaining.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • Look up! Watch some birds in your own backyard. Put down that cell phone, gaming device, iPad, etc. and watch the birds in your yard, out the window, or at the park. Just observe. Make some notes. Even sketch or snap some photos.
  • Find out more about the birds you see at Cornell University’s outstanding Ornithology site. They have fantastic bird guides. And, if you find a nest in your yard, learn how to track it using Cornell’s NestWatch.
  • Each February join the Great Backyard Bird Count. Or just visit the site and learn lots more about birds.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: PARROTS OVER PUERTO RICO

TITLE: Parrots Over Puerto Rico

AUTHOR: Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

ILLUSTRATOR: Susan L. Roth

PUBLICATION INFO: Lee and Low, 2013

ISBN: 9781620140048

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: grades 1 to 6

GENRE: picture book (nonfiction)

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home.”

From the publisher: “Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future. Woven into the parrots’ story is a brief history of Puerto Rico itself, from before the first human settlers to the present day.”

THEMES/TOPICS: animals, nature, history

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I like this book because of Susan Roth’s captivating images. The parrots pop off the page in a cacophony of colors. Kids will want to reach out and touch the three-dimensional fabric pictures. The text is a twin tale of Puerto Rico’s development and the parrots’ decline. Every page has a paragraph devoted to each topic. I think my favorite part, though, was the “Afterword,” which explains the parrot conservation efforts of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program.

RESOURCES:

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FROM SEED TO PLANT

Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays are back. I missed the boat last week, but I wrote my post early this week so I wouldn’t forget.

TITLE: From Seed to Plant

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Gail Gibbons

PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 1991

ISBN: 978-0823410255

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 and up

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Most plants make seeds. A seed contains the beginning of a new plant.”

Gibbons moves through a plant’s life cycle, showing children how seeds are formed through pollination, how they are dispersed, and how they grow into new plants.

THEMES/TOPICS: nonfiction, educational, nature, science

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Cooper was working on a plant life cycle project for school this week, and we checked this book out from the library. Gail Gibbons is a nonfiction favorite in our house. She uses beautiful drawings and simple writing to explain science concepts in a way young children can understand.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • The book has a “Seed to Plant” activity in the back using bean seeds. It’s a different take on the classic bean sprout in a baggie activity used in many preschool classrooms.
  • We’ve also done seed collections before to spark discussion about the different types of seeds and how they are scattered. You’ll find that activity…here.
  • Finally, for older students, you can try the plant life cycle project that Cooper’s class did. Students had to collect five different types of seeds and draw or collect pictures that showed the seedling, mature plant, flower and fruit. They had to label each stage, and I had Cooper draw arrows so he could see that the whole cycle is a circle. I’ll blog about our project next week.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

First Fruits

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Picking juicy, ripe fruit is a beloved summer and fall activity. We’ve just enjoyed our first cherries of the season from our local “u-pick” orchards. We picked at least eight and a half pounds, and I think I have a good 3 hours of pitting ahead of me. Pie and preserves are on the way. What’s your favorite summertime fruit? Do you have any recipes to share?

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For the Birds

Killdeer eggs  Photo courtesy Mike Williams
Killdeer eggs
Photo courtesy Mike Williams

We are batty about birds at our house.

About 10 days ago we discovered a killdeer nest. These shorebirds create nests on the ground, rather than in trees. Our bird laid four speckled eggs among the decorative rocks in our front yard. We’ve been checking the nest periodically to see how our birds are faring.

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Killdeer
Photo courtesy Mike Williams

These birds have an interesting defense against predators. Whenever someone approaches the nest, one bird acts as if it has a broken wing to draw the predator away. It’s fascinating to watch.

Today we discovered NestWatch from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We were able to create our nest on the site, get certified as nest watchers and input data from our nest checks. Cornell scientists are especially interested in nests from the following species: American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove, Barn Swallow, and House Finch. But if you discover any type of nest, you can put it on the site and share your data. This is a fun and easy way for kids to become animal scientists.

We also recently discovered male California quail on our property. These birds just make us giggle. What fun it would be to find a quail nest. We’ll keep you posted.

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California quail
Photo courtesy Mike Williams

Perfect Picture Book Friday: THE EDIBLE PYRAMID

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday! Here’s a quick writing update before I start the review:

  • I finished another query for Boys’ Quest Magazine and got it out the door. They accepted my last two submissions, so I’m hopeful.
  • I have a couple of magazine stories kicking around for Fun For Kidz and Appleseeds. Work begins on those next week.
  • My wonderful critique group helped me whip my latest manuscript into shape. My goal is to finish revisions this weekend so I can send out. I have a writing conference next weekend, where I’ll have a session with an editor I think might be a good fit.
  • I’m working on another picture book idea! It’s been awhile, since I’ve had one come to me as a full concept versus just the subject matter.
  • I signed up for a picture book workshop with one of my writing idols Ann Whitford Paul.
  • I won a copy of Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel, which I will review in the coming weeks.

Unrelated: The kids are out of school for Good Friday and Easter Monday, and I’ve planned lots of fun. Today we’re headed to the Natural History Museum of LA to see the dinosaur exhibit.

Now, on to today’s review.

TITLE: The Edible Pyramid: Good Eating Every Day

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Loreen Leedy

PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 1994 (reprinted 2007)

ISBN: 978-0-08234-2074-2

SOURCE: Library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: 5 and up

GENRE: fiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“On the day of the grand opening of The Edible Pyramid restaurant, customers lined up to get inside.”

From the book jacket:

“Soup’s on at the Edible Pyramid. The feline host is serving everything a kid needs to eat for a healthy, balanced diet. There are yummy items from every group in the food pyramid and advice on getting plenty of exercise too!”

THEMES/TOPICS: healthy eating, food, exercise, science, nature

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Loreen Leedy is a favorite. She blends factual information with comedic characters and great plots to make highly readable books. I can’t think of a better way to teach kids about healthy eating. One note: the USDA has forgone the “Food Pyramid” in favor of the “My Plate” analogy. However, the information in this book continues to be valid.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • Leedy has activities on her site, including a challenge to pick five foods and see where they fit on the pyramid.
  • Or give your child a food group, fruit for example, and let him or her pick a new food to try.
  • You could also serve kids a favorite food and challenge them to estimate how many servings from each food group the food contains. (MATH!)
  • Have kids think about the ways they exercise and add up the minutes: recess, t-ball practice, gymnastics, dance party in the living room, for example.
  • Learn more about MyPlate from the USDA.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Hatchlings

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, my favorite day of the week! This week, I picked a book I have been studying closely for voice and structure. I’m revising a tongue-in-cheek nonfiction manuscript, and Heos’s work provides inspiration, especially when I’m trying to get into the voice.

TITLE: WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING HATCHLINGS

AUTHOR: Bridge Heos

ILLUSTRATOR: Stephane Jorisch

PUBLICATION INFO: Lerner’s Millbrook Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5860-2

SOURCE: Library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 6-11

GENRE: faction (nonfiction/fiction blend)

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Congratulations, crocodilian parents-to-be! You have little ones on the way. You must be thrilled! You’re probably a little nervous too.”

From the publisher’s Website:

“Read this book to find out where to lay your eggs, how you’ll know when the babies are ready to hatch, and what you and your babies will do all day long. Whether you’re an alligator, caiman, crocodile, or even a funny-looking gharial, you’ll find answers to all your parenting questions here. But there’s one condition: don’t eat the book!”

THEMES/TOPICS: crocodilians, reptiles, animals, nature, science

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Heos makes informational books fun for kids AND parents. As a parent who devoured What to Expect When You’re Expecting, this animal spoof is irresistible.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

The book features many resources in the backmatter. Here are a few others:

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Review: Can You Find These Butterflies?

Author: Carmen Bredeson
Illustrator: Lindsey Cousins
Publication Info: Enslow Elementary, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7660-3980-3
Source: publisher-provided complimentary copy
Intended audience: PreK through first grade
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (24 pages)
Themes/topics: butterflies, nature
Opening and synopsis: “A butterfly starts out as an egg. A tiny caterpillar hatches from the egg. It eats and grows.” Using simple language, Bredeson describes how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Then she challenges young readers to learn about nine different types of butterflies and spot them in nature.
Why I like this book: This book invites children to become butterfly experts. Rather than just feeding them facts about butterflies, it encourages them to explore their own backyards, parks and open spaces and see if they can tell a Monarch from a Viceroy. Stunning time-lapse photography shows a caterpillar forming a chrysalis and emerging as a butterfly. Additional, close up photographs show primary features of each butterfly. Simple language geared towards first-grade readers make this a wonderful book for progressing readers.
Resources/activities: Raising butterflies is always a favorite for small children. You can order caterpillars through Insect Lore. Also, if you are on the migration path for monarch butterflies, you can record your sightings online.